Shakhtar Donetsk’s result in Leipzig last week spooked me. It precipitated Leipzig sacking their manager, lancing the boil before we get to play them and fortified Shakhtar, the lowest seed we will face, with an invaluable three away points. The Ukrainians will now expect to finish second in the group.
Although that 1-4 result in Leipzig is better than anything Celtic have achieved on the road in our Champions League endeavours, there is comfort in the match stats. Shakhtar had five attempts at goal in total, all four that were on target found the net. Leipzig created three times as many chances and the visitors achieved what they did with 32% possession. And let’s not forget, a team that finished below us in Scotland last season recorded a 2-4 win in Dortmund earlier this year.
For 50 minutes, the Celtic performance against Real Madrid last midweek was as impressive as I can recall against a genuinely top team. We have seen Champions League wins against Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United, but never with such attacking confidence.
The squad have the benefit of eight days to prepare and, importantly, Kyogo should be fit. I also hope we see Liel Abada start. I disagree with the notion he could have done better with a shot at goal against Real. It was a low probability chance, with all other options blocked by the covering defender. His substitution at halftime was the one mistake I chalked up to Ange Postecoglou.
It is going to be a big night for the defence. Moritz Jenz will be in the team ahead of schedule, but like so many others, he has started the season well and will take the field with confidence. It will also be an occasion for reinforcements from the bench. We still fade around the hour mark, fortunately, Ange has plenty in reserve to trouble opponents at this level.
As we touched on yesterday, the first thing the players need to do is develop an aggressive instinct, leave their opponents to be affected by emotions. Get the result and leave the flag waving until later.
Martin O’Neill Brunch, Dalziel Park Hotel, Motherwell, afternoon of Sat 24 September
The man that changed everything, Martin O’Neill, is coming to Motherwell Saturday 24 September! The event will be compared by our pal, Phil Agnew. There will photo opportunities, some cups will be there too. Donations will go to the Kano Foundation and local charities.
Kick off is 11:45am, for tickets, call Alan on 07970 716422. Cost, including brunch, is £50.